‘There can be no true democracy when the voice of half the community is silent in Parliament…The challenge to the party system has at least been made by the Independent women; their election campaign has set the public thinking…When next an election comes the seed sown should be ready to germinate – the seed beneath the snow as Silone calls it, speaking of those seeds of new growths that lie for a while submerged, but living’ Quote by Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, 1943, on having stood as Independent candidate in the 1943 Dail election.
Hanna Sheehy Skeffington one of Ireland’s foremost suffragettes and peace activists would have been proud of women’s rights activists today who have successfully brought about new legislation on political party funding and candidate gender quotas in Southern Ireland. The Electoral Act, 2012 provides for a 30% gender quota for party candidates at the next election, rising to 40% seven years later. With non-compliant parties risking financial penalties. Fiona Buckley one of the co-founders of the 50:50 group will be talking about the campaign, the challenges of the new legislation and ongoing work needed to encourage more women to become active in public life at the ‘Women Delivering Peace & Security’ Conference in Croke Park next Monday 5th November.
But that’s not the end of the story. More women are also needed in all of those institutions that have been set up under the Good Friday Agreement if they are to be active participants in decision-making on conflict prevention, management and resolution. For example, the new Maze/Long Kesh Development Corporation has only one woman out of 11; and the newly formed North South Inter-Parliamentary Association has one woman out of 12 on its executive committee, while the Northern Ireland Assembly has 21 women out of 108 MLAs.
Hanna’s House, inspired by Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, is the only cross border feminist organization in Ireland and are the hosts of the Croke Park conference. Their aim is to bring politicians, activists and academics together for the first time to discuss the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, on women’s formal involvement in peace processes. Hanna’s House are recommending that the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement develop a gender perspective and set gender targets in keeping with the UN Resolution.
Shirley Graham, the conference co-ordinator says ‘this is the first time such a conference is taking place in Ireland that looks at the impact of the conflict on women North and South of the border with a focus on thinking creatively and pragmatically about policies that need to be developed to support women’s participation in the ongoing peace process and to ensure that both women and men are equally represented’. President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins will formally open the conference. Speakers include Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie from the PSNI; Professor Monica McWilliams of University of Ulster & previously Human Rights Commissioner NI; Claire Hackett of Healing Through Remembering; Sean Barrett TD of the North South Inter-Parliamentary Association; Fiona Buckley of the 50:50 Group. To register for the conference go to: www.eventelephant.com/HannasHouseConference